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So, I'd been on the fence about One Game A Month for several months, but had been keeping up with it for the sake of at least finishing the full year. This month, however, my girlfriend caught a pretty nasty cold, so I spent the first part of it taking care of her. Then I caught it, and spent the next while trying to recover too.
I'm almost over it; I am still getting coughing fits when I take too deep a breath or try to talk in a full voice for longer than a sentance or two, but all the other symptoms have either gone away or reduced to a level that I can ignore them. Looking at the calender, I see that I have 10 days left to make a game in order to meet the challenge; but if I did, the game would have rushed artwork, likely have bugs, and would not come close to living up to the image I had come up with for it when I came up with the idea at the start of the month.
This month though only puts a spotlight on a problem I'd noticed months ago. The challenge it's self is merely a self imposed challenge. There is no upside to placing an arbitrary "One size fits all" deadline on every single project. When I look back at the games I've made so far this year, the couple that stand out as better than the others had one thing in common; I'd managed to squeeze more than a month's worth of work into them by working on them between finishing one month's game and starting the next.
But boy is there a downside. Three major downsides, in fact. Firstly; being above average is not good enough for anything. I don't think a single one of the games I've made this year had fallen into the bottom half of the games for the month they were released. Most of them either landed on the first or second page of results for the week they were released in, out of an average of 5-6 pages, but to get real visibility you need to score amongst the top games, not just kind of near the top.
I can't help but imagine what might have happened if I had instead released half as many games, but worked twice as long on each of them. I could have spent more time polishing the artwork, creating more interesting medals, and included more content.
The second major downside is that the date you finish the game does not matter, only when you release it. So, it doesn't count if you make one game a month and look for a sponsor while working on the next month's game. Since sponsorships are the primary way you make money on a flash game, giving up the ability to get sponsored for the sake of a self imposed challenge is not a very good deal.
Lastly, I am a one man crew. I have to do the art, code, sound effects, and find public domain or creative commons music that fits the game on my own. I am already working with the handicap that I have nobody to help wear some of the hats you need to make a complete game. Putting a second handicap of a strict, unyeilding time limit on every game just hurts the quality of my games for no reason. I'm sure I've had to answer a suggestion for more content with "I was planning to have more, but I had to cut it short due to the time limit" on at least half of my games this year.
I have right now a record of 9 games out of 9 months. If I wanted to keep going, there is no doubt I would make it to 12/12. I did two ludum dares this year; one of which was finished on time when I started a day late. I think it's pretty clear that I can finish a game pretty easily. The only thing this challenge is doing for me is forcing me to cut my games short on content or quality, or both.
So, I'm going to stop trying to fit every game into a one month deadline. Hopefully with more time to give it some polish, my next game will be better.
I am making progress on my new game. Planning to have it finished before the end of the month for the One Game A Month challenge. I am so far 8/8 on that, so I'm doing pretty good.
Currently, I have three ships now, as well as some clouds, and a bar on the top to contain the text. It's asymmetry bugs me a bit, but the two bits of text are different sizes, so I can't really do much with it. Working on the menus and buttons next though.
So, I came to the startling realization that I only remember to write after already finishing a game, and it might be slightly more interesting to read about what will be done than what has been done. That in mind, I figured I might make a concious effort to post what I am working on in the present tense than the past tense.
So, what I started working on a few days ago is a fairly simple game, but with likely much higher art requirements than what is usual for me. Luckily, a Ludum Dare is this month, effectively giving me two months to work on this game and still be good for the One Game A Month challenge.
In the game, you are one of a few survivors of an aggresive alien invasion. While in hiding you build a cannon to launch a projectile at the alien ships overhead. Since a direct confrontation would be laughably one sided, you set it up with a remote control. You have one shot to cause as much destruction as possible.
I am going to try to have at least 4 different ships to give some variety and color to the scene. There will also be upgrades you can add to your cannon between attempts to maximize your destructive potential. I will probably also add some sort of graphic on the top so the text isn't just floating around where the flying ship parts can make them hard to read.
There is a slight possibility I have laughed maniacally at least once while watching the chain explosions going off.
Pretty low milestone, but it is forward movement at least. I seem to have begun to move past my slump earlier this year when I released several poor games in a row. My last few releases have all managed to reach the top page or two for the week they were released in. Makario even got to the front page in the popular games section briefly.
I am continuing to practice my artwork in the hopes that I will be able to give my games the extra polish they need to stand out. I ended up using pretty bare bones pixel art in my last game, to save time so I could draw more, but I think my next game will include hand drawn artwork again.
I am currently 7 for 7 on the One Game A Month challenge incidentally. Trying to make a good game every month has been difficult, and the beginning of the year probably shows how bad I was at it. With the last few months doing better, I am hopeful that by the end of the year I will be able to keep to the same schedule without sacrificing quality for time.
In January of this year, I had made some calculations about the rate at which I was improving, my expenses, and the rate that my income from game design was increasing, and figured that I had at least a decent chance of being somewhat successful by the middle of the year. I was motivated to crunch some code, and start making my dream of being a full time game developer a reality. I even went ahead and put down the money to get Stencyl Pro so I could try out Stencyl 3.0 which boasted a massive reduction to the lag many of my games suffer from due to the engine.
And almost immediately after, Stencyl 3.0 was released to the public, and then Mochi's parent company decided to pull the plug without warning and my income vanished in a puff of ninja smoke. It was like the universe had warped reality for the explicit purpose of punishing my attempt at climbing the ladder.
I tried out the Newgrounds ads, but it has such poor analytics, it seems its impossible to tell what kind of CPM it makes without having a major hit. The couple small game jam games I've done obviously did not get enough views to really test that. I read an article earlier today, which is the reason I'm writing at all, which casually mentioned that most people don't get hits, and that the average designer is lucky to get about $1,000 per release.
So, I'm pretty far behind that goal, especially now. Not fully sure if it is because the average designer used in that measure is still much, much better than I am, or if I am just not doing something that i aught to be doing to monetize properly.
So, with my main project dragging on with slow progress, and the month drawing to a close, I heard about the Ludum Dare being last weekend. Specifically, I heard about it Saturday night of last weekend. With 24 hours and crossed fingers, i set out to make something.
And make something I did. Not anything complex unfortunately, as I was under a major time crunch, but at least something playable. It is almost funny how quickly you can code when a deadline is barrelling down at you like a train.
Maybe I should not have said out loud that I was working on a Stencyl Jam game. Then I wouldn't have felt obligated to meet the deadline. Sadly, my wrist hurts when I spent too long drawing, and with the deadline approaching I couldn't draw much more content and had to make due with what I had. I feel like the game probably would have turned out better if I had another month to work on it.
I'll have to keep in mind for the future to avoid a style that relies on hand drawing when a time limit is involved. I also should probably get around to seeing why my wrist gets sore so easily when drawing.. but the odds are if there is something wrong, it would be something I can't afford to fix. ><
For the last 3 years, I had been working for the sewer. At first, it wasn't too bad, and I was grateful to have a job at all. More recently however, my job duties expanded to include some extremely dangerous tasks on a daily basis, and being on call whenever it rained. I have been passed up on a promotion several times, each time with them giving the job to someone from outside the plant.
Yesterday, they held interviews for a job that was exactly one step above mine, while mine is the absolute lowest possition in the plant. I learned this morning that they had decided on someone from outside the plant; and also that they had only interviewed 2 people.
Me and my girlfriend talked it over a few times, and did our budget, we need 300-400 dollars more a month to be stable, but we do have enough saved up to make it half a year or more before money becomes a real problem. So, I quit my job, and am going to try working on game design full time. Hopefully my work when I am not exausted will be much faster and better quality.
So, I heard about the "One Game a Month" challenge, and figured, why not. I work best under a deadline, for some reason. My first game for this year, Sanity Drop, did a lot better than usual. First time to get mentioned by P-Bot's daily picks, even if it was in the runners up section.
In other news; I was informed of a vitally important bit of information regarding my art quality that I could have used a long time ago. Apparently, when drawing, you draw much larger than the actual dimensions of the graphic, then scale down. My art quality has skyrocketted from "crime against humanity" to "Meh" in a matter of weeks thanks to this bit of information.
Ultimately, my goal is still to improve myself and start making better quality games. I am hoping my game for February will continue to see improvement over my previous games, and will be working to ensure that it does.
Early this year I took a long break to team up on a project, only to later find that the artist was an art thief and had to scrap the whole thing. Since then I've made two new games, both ending up at just slightly above mediocre compared to the other games released at the same time. This has not been a good year for me..
My goal is to actually be good at game design; not just mediocre. Ive been working on improving my art quality at least, but im sure im missing some other important factors as well..